The Future of Vagabonding and Long Term Travel

Endless Road by TheFriendlyFiend, Flickr.comIs the day and age when anyone with the means can set out into the world and explore to their heart’s content coming to end? Perhaps the more better question is: does cheap long term travel have a future?

Wade Shepard, the author of Vagabond Journey, who has been perpetually traveling for over 11 years, recently tackled the world of rising prices, increasingly complex visa processes, multinational visa restrictions and other roadblocks facing today’s vagabonds in a well done series about the future of perpetual travel.

While Shepard has some rather provocative titles to the essays in the series (like The Extermination of the Backpacker) and is, like most of us, concerned about the state of travel, his overall conclusion is that where there’s a will there will always be a way for the intrepid to hit road without a lot of money.

I do no believe for a second that the perpetual travel will become an archaic apparition rearing its head only in history books: I know that the war against the backpacker cannot be won. World travel on slim budgets will continue regardless of whatever obstacles are thrown up in our way — no matter how many goons are blocking the road ahead we will find a way through.

While I agree, it’s hard to avoid the slightly depressing reality that the cost of traveling is rising everyday. Airfares are double and triple what they were just a few years ago. Banks have discovered the lucrative business of screwing travelers with extra fees for international withdrawals, and countries are increasingly turning the visa process into a money making machine designed to gouge travelers for all they’re worth.

For solo travelers such fees may not amount to much, a few extra days of work before leaving on a trip, but for perpetual travelers, particularly those like Shepard who have a family with them, the extra costs on the road can be intimidating.

And intimidation means fewer long term travelers. As Shepard writes:

It is my impression that this type of traveling will soon become less and less preeminent, and will become overly dominated by kids from wealthier families and young professionals on trips of increasingly shorter duration — tourism with backpacks.

Perhaps the most troublesome thorn in the vagabonds’ side is the growth of the new so-called “multi-country immigration zones.” If you aren’t familiar with, for example, the Schengen Area, be sure to check our Shepard’s well done overview of new multinational visa restrictions. In the Schengen Area and others like it visa stays are limited to 90 days. How do you travel slowly through twenty-five European countries in 90 days? Quite simply, you don’t.

For those dedicated to long-term existence on the road Shepard believes that a change in approach is necessary:

Any person who travels across large swaths of the globe knows this: you have to adapt your ways to meet local conditions, you don’t travel through Japan as you would Southeast Asia. The world is changing fast, and the circumstances that surround the traveler are now different than they were a decade ago. We need to tweak our methods, our travel strategies, to continue moving about the world cheaply and continuously.

On the practical side that means forgoing the now upwards of 40 euro a night “hostels” of Europe for a tent perhaps or a resource like couchsurfing; skipping the train in favor of a bicycle or even walking. As Shepard writes, “rather than complaining about the costs of traveling in Europe, I changed my strategy and found that I could move about the continent cheaper than I could most other parts of the world.”

That works for the costs over which you have control — lodging, food, transportation, etc. — but what about the cost of visas or high “exit fees” (taxes imposed when you leave a country)? Well, the only real answer to avoid places that charge them.

So what are you doing? Have fees and higher prices curtailed your trips? Or are you simply spending more time working and less time traveling? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

[Photo by TheFriendlyFiend, Flickr, creative commons licensed]

Posted by | Comments (3)  | October 19, 2010
Category: Backpacking, Family Travel, Simplicity, Vagabonding Advice, Vagabonding Life

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